Why are you afraid to homeschool high school? Ask that question of anyone who hasn’t tried it yet, and you’ll almost always get the same answer: “I’m afraid I won’t prepare my children well enough for college.” It’s a universal fear — and one that I had myself! — but like many of the other things that scare us about homeschooling high school, the angst about college preparation can be easily dealt with.
How do I know, you ask? Well, we’ve graduated three children from our homeschool — each of which is vastly different from the other — and they have all gone on to college and done JUST FINE. So take a deep breath and just listen to me for a minute. 🙂
I’m going to come right out and say it: it IS totally possible to be confident that your homeschooled teen is being adequately prepared for college. And it’s not as big a deal as you think. There are a few simple processes you can incorporate into your high school homeschool that will be the best ways to ensure adequate college preparation for your child. Many of them come naturally to the average, conscientious homeschool parent (which you are, if you are taking the time to read this). In fact, you are probably doing some of them already, even if you’ve gotten no higher than middle school so far.
If you do these things, then you can be confident that you are giving your teen adequate college preparation:
1) Do your research. Use the internet to find out what colleges require for admission from their high school applicants. I’ve written an entire post on this, so I’m not going to go into detail here. Suffice it to say that this is the first thing we should do when we start even considering homeschooling high school. Making sure that your homeschool high school curriculum has enough credits in each subject area to satisfy college admissions officers is a HUGE confidence booster about whether or not we are doing our job of preparing them well.
2) Teach your teen to learn independently. This will probably have been started in middle school (or earlier!), but if not, now is the time. What this means is guiding your teen to take ownership of learning the content of their courses. In other words, the high school student should be reading the lesson or watching the video and then completing the assignment without relying on you for instruction or explanation. They should be checking their daily work and learning from their mistakes. They should be studying for tests on their own. Your involvement should only be to answer the occasional question and to grade tests and papers.
Why is this so important? Because that is what college is. In college your child is given a syllabus and is expected to follow it. He is expected to stay on track with assignments and turn papers in on time. He is expected to seek out help when he doesn’t understand; no one will hold his hand and check in on him. If your teen is in charge of most of their learning while they are in high school and being generally successful, then you can feel certain they are being well prepared for college.
3) Give them a strong language arts foundation. In my opinion, language arts is more important than science or math. Because if the child has good grammar and a wide vocabulary, understands how to read higher level subject matter, and can express himself through speech and writing, then he will be able to read and understand just about anything that is thrown at him in college, including the science and math. The reverse — that the child who can handle high level math will be able to read and understand other subjects — may not be true. All college majors involve using language; not all of them involve math and science. So don’t give up on the grammar just because they are in high school. Encourage reading of all genres. Give them lots of opportunities to write. If your teen is capable of handling the English language well, then you can be confident they will be ready to tackle college coursework.
4) Teach them to manage their time. This is related to #2 but isn’t exactly the same. Sometimes a kid is able to learn independently just fine, but they don’t discipline themselves to do it in a timely fashion. In college they will need to juggle classes, work, sleep, and their burgeoning social life. 🙂 Give them opportunities to practice that now. Give them opportunities to fail at that now. It’s definitely better for them to suffer consequences and learn lessons in time management now at home rather than later at college, when you are spending the big bucks! If you are teaching your teen to be responsible for how they use their time, then you are doing a good job of preparing them for college. More about exactly how to go about that in a guest post I did here: 5 Ways to Guide Your Teen in the Art of Time Management.
5) Don’t always let them redo everything to get an A. This is one of my pet peeves with homeschoolers. Of course we want mastery, but if we always let the kid retake every test or rewrite every paper, they never learn to do it right the first time. I gave my kids B’s (and lower) when they deserved them. I think a transcript with all A’s is suspect. Yes, there are plenty of kids who earn them — but do they earn all A’s, or might there be an A- or two in there? Or even — gasp! — a B+? Every homeschooled kid is not an A student, y’all. Don’t try to pretend they are, just because you would like them to be. They won’t get the opportunity to redo things in college. If you are holding your teen accountable for the quality of their work the FIRST time, then you can know that they won’t be overwhelmed by the same expectation in college.
Doing the above things will give us confidence that we are doing all we can to prepare our kids. But wait; I’ve got more encouragement for you! 🙂
Consider these other factors that will help you feel affirmed about whether you are providing adequate college preparation:
1) The SAT and ACT are good indicators of whether your child is ready for college. If the scores from these tests are rather low, you might want to consider some other type of career path. If the scores are average or above average, then your child has the ability to handle college-level work. This is completely objective, y’all. No homeschool mom bias here.
Related Post: College Entrance Exams Q&A
2) Colleges are aware that freshmen need help adjusting to college-level work and college-level expectations. Often there is an entire course during the very first semester that teaches the freshmen about study skills, time management, how to use the library, etc. There is usually also a huge support system for freshmen, from the RA on their dorm floor, to orientation small groups, to student mentors, and more. Many college professors who teach freshmen classes are more communicative when it comes to expectations and scheduling, as well as giving lots of feedback on assignments. Knowing this on the front end can help allay fears about your child being able to adapt. They are given every opportunity during that first year to learn everything they need to know.
3) And then there’s the consideration of what type of college you are trying to prepare your child for anyway. Sometimes I think we homeschoolers feel like we have to plan as if our child will be going to an Ivy League school, because if we shoot for anything less, we’re not measuring up to the “homeschool elite” out there who have been winning the national spelling bees and acing the honors courses and running their own businesses by age 18. Guess what? Most of us are ordinary. Most of us will be sending our children to the local community college or state school, or maybe a small private school. Those places will LOVE your homeschooled child. Or at the very least they won’t expect them to be a superstar of the highest order. It’s OK to have an average student going to an average college, y’all!! UPDATE: I felt so strongly about this point that I wrote an entire post about it here: The Truth About How to “Look Good” on College Applications.
4) THERE IS HELP. You are not in this alone! Check out my High School Homeschool Blogroll for a list of blogs that regularly write about homeschooling high school. Lotsa great information there. Then there’s my Facebook group, It’s Not that Hard to Homeschool High School, where you can ask any question you want and get wonderful feedback from many moms who have felt just like you. When you have support, it is SOOOO much easier to be confident in what you are doing!
I know how insecure we can feel when thinking about homeschooling high school, especially when it comes to college preparation. But I’m here to say that you’ve got this!! By paying attention to the things I’ve listed above, you can be confident that you’re giving your teen everything they need to be successful when they start college. So no more worries, OK?? 🙂